PHARMACY

Four Congress members add their voice to Express Scripts-Medco merger opposition

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — In the wake of a key Senate subcommittee hearing this month, and on the heels of the collapse of the blockbuster AT&T and T-Mobile merger, four more U.S. lawmakers have joined the growing ranks of consumer groups, members of Congress and employers questioning the proposed mega-merger of pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions.
 
In a joint letter to Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz, the entire South Dakota congressional delegation — Sens. Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R) — urged that “preserving access to care and consumer choice should not be overlooked.” They pointed to the potential dominance that the company, if combined, would have, particularly in the specialty and mail order pharmacy markets and noted that in South Dakota, “community pharmacists provide vital services to patients and support our local economies.”
 
In a separate letter to Leibowitz, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., noted, “I am concerned that this market dominance could force community pharmacies in my district, and across the country, out of business. In addition, because the consolidated PBM will have the largest piece of a market that is already highly concentrated, there is a possibility that prescription prices would increase. Ultimately this market consolidation and price increase will be disproportionally felt by elderly, poor and rural populations.”
 
Regarding the additional support, the National Community Pharmacists Association Douglas Hoey said, “We greatly appreciate these members of Congress, and all members, who have taken a stand for patients by voicing their doubts about this merger. Concern about this merger is bipartisan, bicameral and widespread. If approved, we fear it would reduce patient choice and access to pharmacy services and ultimately result in higher prescription drug costs.
 
“While CEOs for these companies may talk a good game in their congressional testimony, many of their claims simply do not hold up to scrutiny,” Hoey added. “Their actions speak louder than words and raise serious questions about their commitment to containing costs for plan sponsors and beneficiaries.”
 
With these letters, now 33 members of Congress have directly voiced concerns about the merger.
 
In addition, while the FTC continues to scrutinize the merger, at least 28 state attorneys general have formed a working group to conduct their own review.


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PHARMACY

Covis acquires U.S. rights to five GSK drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

ZUG, Switzerland — A Swiss drug maker is acquiring the U.S. rights for several GlaxoSmithKline drugs.

Covis Pharma Sarl announced Thursday that it had acquired the rights to the antibiotic Fortaz (ceftazidime), the antibiotic Zinacef (cefuroxime), the heart arrhythmia drug Lanoxin (digoxin), the antidepressant Parnate (tranylcypromine sulfate) and the gastroesophogeal reflux disease drug Zantac (ranitidine hydrochloride). GSK will retain rights to the drugs outside the United States.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.


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Pfizer announces Embeda post-market trial results

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — A Pfizer painkiller appears to produce a much less positive experience for recreational drug users when crushed than when administered whole, according to results of a post-market clinical study program.

The drug maker announced results of three phase-4 trials of Embeda (morphine sulfate and naltrexone hydrochloride) designed to assess its affects when crushed and taken orally or inhaled through the nose. Two of the studies tested Embeda on recreational drug users, while the third study tested it on patients with chronic pain, though that study had to be canceled due to Pfizer’s voluntary recall of Embeda in March 2011 due to a chemical stability issue.

In the studies among recreational users, however, the company said Embeda produced lower scores of "drug liking," "high," "good effects," "overall drug liking" and "take the drug again."


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